Though deliciously rude and crude, 3, 2, 1 … Frankie Go Boom possesses a surprisingly sweet heart. The failures and foibles of one Frankie Bartlett, screwed-up man-child, are lovingly embraced fun-house mirrors of Everyman’s (and woman’s) existential condition. Rollicking its transgressive way toward defining grown-up masculinity, Jordan Roberts’ screwball romp never stoops to the misogyny and other infantilisms rampant in so many Peter Pan comedies. Like Some Like It Hot (one of Roberts’ favorite movies), Boom celebrates the ways in which nobody’s perfect.
At first, 3, 2, 1 … Frankie Go Boom reads like the worst title ever. But its baby-talk syntax and climactic collapse eloquently signpost all the pratfalls, sexual and otherwise, that have bedeviled and humiliated Frankie (Charlie Hunnam) since boyhood — courtesy of his compulsive-prankster brother Bruce (Bridesmaids‘s Chris O’Dowd). The title also evokes that breathless momentum of let’s-pretend child’s play that characterizes Roberts’ only apparently episodic, all-over-the-map narrative style.
The film begins life as a pastel home movie in which gleeful Bruce tricks his sibling into “going boom” into a backyard “grave.” Twenty-five years after that first downfall, Frankie has holed up in a womb-like trailer in Death Valley. Writing books he never finishes, he’s hiding from the millions who enjoyed the Internet video of his disastrous wedding: Compulsive filmmaker Bruce thoughtfully recorded the moment when Frankie discovered his bride had cheated on him with his best man. Somehow their mom (Nora Dunn) convinces Frankie to come home to celebrate Bruce’s graduation from drug rehab. And thus begins Frankie’s descent into a fresh hell of beleaguered manhood.